Every once in awhile someone sends us a remedy that is so unusual that it stops us cold. Such was the case when Ken D. contacted us about his dietary solution to a very serious condition called hemochromatosis. In this genetic disorder, iron accumulates in the body and can cause serious damage to the liver, heart, pancreas and joints.

People can develop cirrhosis, diabetes, heart enlargement and arthritis. The usual treatment for this condition is regular removal of blood. The reference to a barber’s pole below refers to the historical function of barbers as professionals who did surgery and bloodletting.

“Hemochromatosis runs in my family. We all find it incredibly amusing that the single best known treatment “modern” medicine has to offer is bloodletting.

“When headed to the lab for a phlebotomy session, I would always get a chuckle when the mental image of a barber’s pole popped into my head. I mentioned my condition to a chemist friend of mine, and he told me I should eat cabbage. Huh?

“His explanation was simple: it would help to chelate the iron in my tissues. The long and short of it is that my ferritin levels dropped so significantly once I took his advice that my primary care physician ordered a second test to confirm the results, thinking it must have been a lab error. By the time those numbers came back, they had dropped even more.

“I can’t say it will do the same for anyone else, but if you are willing to swap cole slaw for fries at lunch for a few months (which was all I did) they can find out for themselves.

“Wild, right?” -Ken D.

We checked the medical literature to see whether this connection between cabbage and iron levels in the blood had been documented. We could find no research. We welcome others to try this experiment and let us know how it works.

Joe & Terry

The People’s Pharmacy

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  1. Harold

    I have had Diabetes 2 for over 14 years, and never took a man-made chemical. Instead, I have controlled the symptoms with diet, lots of exercise, and peace of mind. My eyes, feet, and level of energy are OK. However, my glucose meter show it above 200 and my A1c around 10.

    Recently I became aware of many studies stating that hemochromatosis (iron overload) may be the cause of my diabetes, so now I am looking online for answers and natural remedies.

    Thank to this site I find that no red meat and eating cabbage, green tea and donating blood may help, so I will try it. Thank you for the valuable information

  2. JP

    In reality, the last 3 years say it all. 330 to 620 to 887 iron level in the bloodstream. Maybe it’s the Chaga I have been consuming. My doctor thinks its Hemochromatosis, i will know soon and see a blood specialist. Let md tell you i want to suprise them by eating cabbage everyday and see from there. Anyone know if a machine like the one used for diabetics exists to check iron level? Thanks a lot!

  3. Ty

    Hello, I have just been told by my doctor that I have iron overload due to multiple blood transfusions in my liver and my ferritin level is 3000. I was prescribed a drug called Deferasirox ( Exjade) but it is rare to find in my country and very expensive which I cannot afford. My PCV blood level is low and I have a medical condition of sickle cell anaemia.

    It is imperative that I lower my ferritin level but since I can’t afford the drug, I have decided to try cabbage and see if it will lower the iron level in my blood/ liver. I will appreciate it if you can tell what other veggies can lower the high ferritin level of iron in the blood. Please help. Thank you.

  4. Michael
    New Mexico

    I had a high Ferratin level over 1300, I donated plasma, but I became tired of being a pin cushion. I decided to go vegan and within two months my level dropped to 300. It was easier on my arms to eat a plant based diet for a couple of months, in addition; my other blood levels stablized. Added side effect of eating plant based diet included more energy, less belly fat, jaudice in eyes cleared up, no more stomach issues. If you want to drop your ferratin levels quickly avoid vitamin c, cast iron skillets, animal products, processed foods, sugars.

    • Jennifer

      Cilantro will help also.

  5. Delanna Snowden

    My husband has genetic hemochromatosis and Cole Slaw seems to work. My husband is a different man! He is more patient. I wish I knew of this years ago!

    • joel

      hi, how much he eats per day? its fresh grated cabbage?

  6. Pamela Foye-Needle
    Seattle, WA

    Thank you for this simple suggestion. Was just diagnosed this week based off routine blood work and I am overwhelmed by the info out there.
    Quite a week, just turned 50 on Saturday and was diagnosed on Monday.

  7. Johann
    Cape Town

    Please be aware that eating cabbage can greatly increase your intake of vitamik K, which increases blood clotting and should be handled with caution if you have had a stroke or coronary incident. A number of commentators on this forum have indicated a hostory of stroke. Please do your research if this is the case with you.

  8. Jann

    To the poster who asked about ferritin going too low. Yes, it can! And, to others who suggested having your hemoglobin checked…that is not the same as ferritin or stored iron. Get a good book on the subject! There is a lot to hemochromatosis which can be inherited. If it is HH, it can’t be cured, but can be controlled… mostly by phlebotomies. And, while cabbage is a great vegetable, it can’t cure HH.

  9. Kim

    My son was going through a condition of hemolytic hemolysis in which he needed over 10 pints of blood within 9 days. This caused his ferritin iron level to be over 8900 for several months. The doctors put him on a drug to chelate iron from his body. But, after reading side effects which could cause blindness. I researched the blogs and found where someone posted that cabbage worked. I gave my son cabbage cole slaw, cooked cabbage, juiced it as well daily. His iron is now down to 1500 this took approximate 5 months. It really works. Thank you for posting this Joe. God bless you all. Keep posting to help others.

  10. Connie
    New Zealand

    My high iron was discovered by accident when having blood tests. I am 77 which seems late in life to find out I have haemochromatosis . I was really impressed with the idea of the cabbage diet and so ate a lot of coleslaw and when I finally got to see a haematologist with a view to management he decided because my iron level had dropped dramatically from 1900 to 900 I should just be left for six months then have another test. I feel a bit anxious but the dramatic drop seemed to really surprise him. Also my age probably makes him feel I perhaps won’t last long anyway but I am fit and no health problems otherwise. I wonder if there are other foods that do the same as cabbage – sadly it does get a bit boring.

  11. Teresa

    I found out my ferritin levels are at 925 which cause my liver level to be 1,119.
    No hepatitis. My glucose went high with it but for some reason a week later it dropped at the normal level. My Lipase is 20 above the normal range. The doctors appear to be taking too long to determine what is to be done, so I am thinking of donating. Does anyone know if my high liver functions will interfere with donating my blood?

    • Steve

      Make your own sauerkraut, you will never be bored again…

  12. Just Wondering

    I recently had a blood panel done and my Ferritin Serum level was 199. It says it should be 15>150. Is my level considered to be something to be concerned about? I’m starting the cabbage diet so to speak. Thanks for any input.

  13. mary wier
    chattanooga tennessee

    Dear PP Here is additional research I found that was not referenced but I did find that many are copper deficient and the copper ion is necessary to hold onto the iron to move it at the molecular level, copper is high in shellfish but we very seldom get to eat them, I got the Solaray copper 2 mg and use sunflower seeds and peanuts.

    • joel

      Marry, any updates from taking the Solaray Copper supplement?

  14. mary w
    chattanooga tennessee

    Dear PP, My husband with type 2 went gluten free and his ferritin tripled from the 20’s to almost 90, I felt this was not good as his glucose rose with it—he had been on iron supplement for 5 years for anemia and I am sure the iron pills raised the ferritin–15 years before this he had normal glucose by diet–He is Irish descent so he tested for the hemochromatosis gene HFE and it came back negative but the paper said there were other new mutations discovered that had no tests–I took him off the pills and his ferritin fell to 27.9 and he donated blood till it went to 16.

    The glucose has not lowered back where it was, I suspect maybe some iron in the pancreas or liver, but we have not gone to doctor, we did find a hematologist who has been tracking his iron panels and he has been avoiding iron foods, and then ferritin went to 10.9 now the new doctor wants him to go back on iron pills, we refused. I started him on 2mg. of copper 2 weeks ago and he is much better and we are eating coleslaw everyday, maybe too much but I am very grateful for the cabbage advice! His iron and % saturation and hemoglobin are normal, I wonder why the doctor wants him to go back on iron. We are allowing meat and liver back in. Does anyone think 10.9 ferritin is too low? Appreciate feedback . Thanks!

    • Alan

      Ceruloplasmin transports copper and helps mobilize iron. Be sure you get Ceruloplasmin tested. It should be 33-35 range but typically is 20-25 and too low, thus low transportation of copper. Also known as copper dysregulation.

  15. Sara

    For anyone who doesn’t have health insurance or can’t afford to see a doctor… one way to check for hemochromatosis and avoid the cost of a doctor visit/lab tests is to go to the local blood bank and donate blood. Just tell them you’re there to donate blood and you’d also like to know if your iron is too high. They have to check iron for everyone before the blood donation (can’t take blood from someone who is low on iron) so there is no extra work for them and they love/need blood so they’ll be grateful for your donation. They will check your iron, and you’ll donate blood (takes less than an hour for most people). Before you donate they’ll usually prick your finger or draw some blood from a vein and do a quick test which will show high/low iron and then you can act accordingly – if iron is low they won’t allow you to donate, if iron is high you’ll donate and then either go see a doctor or continue to donate and change your diet. This isn’t as good as a full work up by a physician but if you don’t have the money this is better than nothing.

    Also, if you do have high iron or suspect you might, but can’t afford treatment….treatment is blood donation at frequent intervals *but* you have to pay for the blood donation and the blood bank has to throw away the blood…no one wins *but* if your iron is dangerously high you need to pay for the donations and get it down quickly. However, if you have high iron that isn’t crazy high just go donate blood every 60 days and reduce dietary iron intake (decrease meat and increase eggs and green tea). Again, not as good a full medical work up but this is the “poor mans treatment” and it’ll be better than doing nothing…but if you can afford medical treatment you should not put your health at risk. Iron overload can do a lot of damage even before it kills.

    Hope this helps someone.

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